SBI’s 41 Center Console-Offshore craft design, which uses a 41 ft (12.5 m) deep-V aluminum monohull and was already in use with the Colombian Navy and Royal Bahamas Police Force, uses four outboards to hit 54+ knots in open ocean (though not likely that fast in anything but the calmest of sea states). These craft will carry a up-to four armed AMO agents in shock-absorbing seats and are capable, like slightly smaller USCG 45-footers, of 12~ hour patrols.
Now, CBP announced they have taken possession of the first of these $923,000-a-pop coastal gunboats, which will be named the Alexandria, after of one of the first maritime law enforcement “collectorships” used by the Department of Treasury in 1789.
The Bell Model 204 (prototyped as the XH-40) first flew in 1956 and entered service with the military as the HU-1 (which quickly became “Huey” in milspeak), transitioning to the UH-1 Iroquois designation in 1962, with the first “slick” medevac ships assigned to the 57th Medical Detachment arriving in South Vietnam the same year. With more than 16,000 of these iconic medium lift helicopters built, the Huey became the defacto symbol of the Vietnam conflict.
Enter the obligatory Apocalypse Now- Ride of the Valkyries clip here:
It should be remembered that the last searing image of U.S. forces leaving Saigon in 1975 was centered on a Huey.
While a number of Hueys remain in service with the military (59 UH-1Ns are used by the Air Force for Minuteman ICBM security, 37 TH-1H trainers are still in the air, the Army keeps 53 UH-1Vs in various Guard units, and of course the Marines have 107 advanced UH-1Y Venoms in regular fleet use), the Pentagon divested themselves of Vietnam-era UH-1s some years ago.
Which brings us to last week’s final flight.
In 2000, a pure former Army Bell UH-1H Huey S/N 69-15533, which clocked 419 hours in 1971 as a “Dolphin” with the 174th Assault Helicopter Company (she took 2 hits during Lam Son 719), was transferred from service with the FBI to the Border Patrol. Then when Border Patrol became part of CBP after 9/11, was transferred to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations’ (AMO) office as N7247J.
Parked last week, she has an impressive 6,900 flight hours and 2,466 cycles on her 47-year old airframe that are documented.
She is the last UH-1H in Homeland Security and DOJ long ago moved to more modern platforms, leaving DHS the antiques.
The FBI’s Surveillance and Aviation Section (SAS) flies 120~ aircraft but they are mostly sketchy little Cessnas screened by front companies for opsec purposes and a handful of marked planes for liaison purposes.
As noted in a press release from CBP on the event of N7247J making its final flight in El Paso:
It was a crucial platform for law enforcement operations along the Southwest Border, and over the last decade, was directly involved in the seizure of approximately 4,000 pounds of marijuana. It was also deployed to conduct vital missions during Hurricane Katrina.
During its tenure, AMO crews have operated the UH-1H to perform tactical and utility missions, including the insertion of agents into otherwise inaccessible terrain, external “load” operations, fast rope and rappel, search and rescue, air crew rifle operations, and aerial patrols.
She will be sold as surplus at auction.
A few Super Hueys remain in AMO’s flying museum, refitted with AH-1F Cobra engines, though its not clear if they are Vietnam era or not.